What is HTTPS? A Guide to Securing an On-Site Experience for Marketers

Do you want to provide a safer experience to your users and help your Google rankings? One way to do both is to secure your website with HTTPS. In this post, we’ll explain what HTTPS is, why you need it, and how to get it.

The difference between HTTP and HTTPS

HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. This protocol provides the rules within the application layer for web browsers to communicate with web servers. It is the basis of the connection to the Internet.

HTTP requests are sent by the user’s browser. Web servers send an HTTP response to the request, loading the web page using hypertext links.

S on HTTPS stands for Secure. HTTPS enables secure communication between web browsers and web servers.

How does HTTPS work

HTTPS works over SSL or TLS. Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is the predecessor of TLS.

Transport Layer Security (TLS) provides privacy and data integrity over encryption protocols in communications between two or more applications.

The goal of this protocol within the application layer is to prevent eavesdropping and tampering with secure data transmission.

While most websites still state that your site is secured with HTTPS via SSL certificates, TLS is the modern version of SSL in use today. We will discuss how to get this for your website later in the post.

Why is HTTPS important

HTTPS prevents brokers from injecting content into a website without the owner’s knowledge. Without HTTPS, a bad actor might inject advertisements across the Internet, for example, to take advantage of web traffic.

According to the HTTP Archive, about 92% of desktop requests and 91% of mobile requests come from URLs with HTTPS in the prefix. W3Techs reports that 75.2% of websites use HTTPS. BuiltWith has found over 155 million SSL certificates installed on websites across the Internet.

They are important for two specific reasons for marketing as well. First, when visitors come to an HTTP website, browsers like Google Chrome label the site as unsafe in the URL bar.

In mobile browsers, unsafe sites appear with a warning triangle next to the domain.

Screenshot from Washington.edu, August 2021

Second, HTTPS can affect your rankings in search results as well. In 2014, Google announced HTTPS as part of the algorithm that ranks web pages in Google’s search engine results.

After implementing HTTPS for Google services, Google announced the “HTTPS Everywhere” initiative to encourage online webmasters to do the same.

“Currently, the signal is very lightweight – affecting less than 1% of global queries, and carries less weight than other signals such as high-quality content – while we give webmasters time to switch to HTTPS. But over time, we may decide to strengthen it, because We want to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web.”

How secure is HTTPS

HTTPS does not mean that a website is 100% secure or fail-safe. HTTPS only secures communications between two computers, such as a user’s computer via a web browser and a web server.

HTTPS provides stronger security than HTTP, it does not protect the user’s computer or the web server itself from hacker or malware attack.

This is why webmasters should secure their websites and users should use antivirus and spyware protection on their computers.

How to get HTTPS for your website

To add HTTPS to your website, you may need an SSL certificate. But first, look into your current web hosting provider’s documentation on how to enable or enforce HTTPS. It may already be included in your current hosting plan.

If not, you should be able to purchase a TLS/SSL certificate from your current web host or upgrade to a new hosting plan that includes TLS/SSL.

Alternatively, you can get TLS/SSL from Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) like Cloudflare or get TSL/SSL from Digicert.

How to redirect HTTP to HTTPS sites

How you redirect your website from HTTP to HTTPS depends on your web server. If you don’t have an option from your hosting control panel to switch to or enforce HTTPS, you’ll need to redirect or rewrite your URLs from HTTP to HTTPS.

You can find directions for your hosting provider by searching Google for your host company name + HTTP to HTTPS. Most companies will have specific documentation on how to redirect their hosting plan and web server.

Google also provides in-depth documentation on how to migrate from HTTP to HTTPS in the Advanced SEO section of Google Search Central. It also links to information about how to configure Google Search Console for your HTTPS site.

How to secure your website outside of SSL

There are several ways you can secure your website in addition to HTTPS. It is important to do this because Google can determine if your website has been hacked or infected with malware.

Pages or sites affected by a security issue can appear with a warning flag in search results or an interstitial warning page in the browser when a user attempts to visit them.

Google will alert webmasters if their site has been hacked via Google Search Console and report security issues.

To protect your website, start by updating your passwords. Any service you use for your website – domain registrar, web host, control panel, admin panel, etc. – can give the wrong person too much access to your website, leaving them vulnerable.

If you use the same password across multiple services, you may want to change it to make sure that an attack on one of them doesn’t turn into an attack on all of them.

To save your unique and secure passwords, avoid using your browser and choose a more secure app like 1Password or LastPass.

Next, look at your web hosting service. Many providers offer plans with upgraded security features. Look for plans that include a security firewall, malware scanning, virus scanning, DDoS protection, and automatic backups in case something happens.

If you can’t get protection from your web host, you can try services like Sucuri. They include advanced security checks, firewall, block list monitoring, SSL support, and advanced DDoS mitigation.

Their plans also include website cleaning and malware removal if your website is hacked.

WordPress users can try the Jetpack (formerly known as VaultPress) plugin from Automattic. Their security plans include backups, security scans, downtime monitoring, brute force protection, and spam protection.

Finally, review everything you’re thinking of adding to your website.

Plugins, add-ons, and extensions can create security holes for your website and your users.

Look for user reviews and choose only those plugins that play a vital role in marketing or sales.

How to get HTTPS as a user

HTTPS Everywhere is an extension that works with popular web browsers including Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Opera.

Android users can install it on Firefox. Alternatively, HTTPS is included in the Brave and Tor browsers for desktop computers and Android/iOS mobile devices.

HTTPS AnywhereA still from the movie Brave, August 2021

This extension or integration with Brave and Tor browsers allows you to upgrade to a more secure connection when a website does not offer HTTPS or does not rewrite/redirect its URLs from HTTP to HTTPS.

main socket

HTTPS plays an important role in providing a secure user experience and a positive ranking signal in the Google algorithm.

Secure your website with HTTPS by obtaining a TSL/SSL certificate from a web hosting service, CDN, or other provider.

More resources:

Featured Image: BestForBest / Shutterstock

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